David J Opdyke
by AmbiEntrance
July 1998


Saddle up the recliner and take a long, leisurely ride down the ol' ambient trail... or, I should say, the new ambient trail. Though Steve Roach has been way out West for years, he and his new partner (Tusconian guitarist and studio whiz Roger King) are stringing up a different sound.

The two men have many years of experience behind them, applying their expertise to this new desertscape. You best believe it's done right! (You can get the behind-the-scenes story at the exclusive AmbiEntrance DUST TO DUST Interview). We're talking about guitar-based electronic ambience... Real purty sounds! And for this outing, Roach has traded in his didgeridoo for a good old-fashioned harp... blues harp, that is.

Riding in on the wide-open spaces of Roach's electronic skyway, King's guitar makes itself right at home... It's obvious they've "Gone West". Hesitantly, then spiritedly, strings jangle and ring along with accompanying harmonica blasts. The track builds and meanders a bit, then settles into something downright relaxing. "A Daze Wage", on the other hand, keeps up its hard-working pace pretty much 'til the end. The guitar leads the way, picking and sliding in a determined refrain over the background clank and scrape of hard labor, while Roach's harp grumbles and growls.

King's few ghost-like words are blended into "A Bigger Sky", which is the shortest song at 3:19. Extended wails and stretched-out chords reach from the horizons. Perhaps not surprisingly, "The Ribbon Rails of Promise" seems to go endlessly (well, for almost 11 minutes) like westward-bound train tracks rolling on and on. Quickly pattering cymbals are paired with a fretless bass which lumbers forward, lurchingly but resolutely. Plenty of electronics float by, with less guitar.

"First Sunrise" is a piece of minimal serenity, shining slowly. Percussionless, it's flavored with light rays of synth and a few strums here and there, eventually fading away. If that track is a peaceful day, then "Lost and Forgotten" is the restless night. An eerie feel pervades this darkened valley... ominous bass, snakey rattles and thunderclaps allude to danger... real, dreamt or remembered? You're in it now.

"Snake Eyes" focuses again on King's alternately strumming, sliding and ringing guitar while Roach's harmonica wails in the near distance. Assorted creaks and shakes accent the track, along with the occasionally blown beer-bottle. No beat, but a relatively lively pace. Through the sounds of thunder and precipitation, a rich rainbow of synth and resonant guitar chords brighten the atmosphere of "Rain and Creosote". Lengthy sustains sweep the tones across the sky in this beautiful piece.

It blends seamlessly into "Ghost Train", and its dense, swirling heathaze of sound. The ol' blues harp huffs and twitters a bit while sonic clouds rise and fall in a wondrous slow motion. The track is bass-heavy, yet light and shimmering... a piece of heaven eventually fading away like a mirage.

I've got a thing for this breed of sound, (and it definitely is comparable to my other favorite ambient trailride, Slim Westerns), so call me a little bit predisposed, but... DUST TO DUST does exactly what it sets out to do. The result is atmospheric, evocative and artfully rendered. Call it an inexpensive, yet wholly satisfying Southwestern vacation, without the heat and sand. Both of my thumbs are reaching for the sky!


Dust to Dust

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CD  $15.00 
ON SALE, $12.00 
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Dust to Dust
Steve Roach, Roger King
1998 Projekt PRO79 (CD)
Reviewed by AmbiEntrance, Brett Neely, John Pemble, Alternative Press, CounterPunch, Illinois Entertainer, Muze

Western Music in the truest sense. It is a bold step in a new direction: Where sounds paint pictures with a range of colors drawn from the land, where stories are told with the instruments of old and new pioneers. Guitars, harmonicas and washboard rhythms find their place next to a wagon full of electronics. This is the music, and even more the soundtrack, to the lingering ghosts and the lost and not-so-forgotten dreams of the restless souls driven to "Go West by God!" The story shifts between the present and the recent past when a dust trail was the only road west. The rails were freshly laid, still wet with sweat and blood. For better or worse, hopes and dreams turned real in the vast southwestern deserts, becoming a metaphor for a clean slate and a better life.

"DUST TO DUST has the mystery and allure of 150 year old photographs of strangers whose eyes and stoic faces suggest a thousand untold stories." -- (Mark Burby, AP magazine)
 
1. Gone WestRealAudioMP37:27 
2. A Daze WageRealAudioMP36:13 
3. A Bigger SkyMP33:19 
4. The Ribbon Rails of PromiseMP315:05 
5. First SunriseMP34:27 
6. Lost and ForgottenMP310:44 
7. Snake EyesMP35:35 
8. Rain and CreosoteRealAudioMP35:02 
9. Ghost TrainRealAudioMP37:21 



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